Draft Preview: Tyler Jay

Tyler Jay, LHP for the University of Illinois, and potential Chicago White Sox draft pick.

Tyler Jay, LHP for the University of Illinois, and potential Chicago White Sox draft pick.

Tyler Jay
School: University of Illinois
Position: LHP
Height/Weight: 6’ 1”, 180 lbs
B/T: L/L
D.O.B.: 4/19/1994
Previously Drafted: Undrafted out of high school

2015 stats: 56.1 IP, 65/6 SO/BB, 0.64 ERA, 29 H, 28/1 G/GS

Scouting Reports:

“Jay drew little attention from scouts as an Illinois high schooler in 2012, when he was a slight southpaw who topped out at 90 mph.” MLB.com

“He is still not very physical at 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, but Jay now works at 93-95 mph and peaks at 98 mph with his fastball, even when he works on consecutive days. He generates that heat with athleticism and a quick arm rather than an excessive amount of effort in his delivery. Jay has a deeper repertoire than most relievers. His plus slider is his second-best pitch, and he also has a curveball with power and depth and shows signs of interesting changeup. He has enough pitches and control to lead a pro team to consider trying him as a starter, though he lacks size and could speed to the Majors if he remains a reliever.” MLB.com

“The pitcher more scouts seem to believe in than ever is Illinois lefthander Tyler Jay. It is ironic to say the least that it’s the college closer in Jay—who leads the nation in ERA and ranks fifth in strikeout-to-walk ratio—whom most scouts believe can start, and the two starters scouts see as big league impact relievers in Fulmer and Tate. “If you’re going to take a short college pitcher,” one scouting director said, “and you compare Jay to Fulmer, Jay does it easier, does it cleaner. He throws as hard (92-96 mph), maybe not as firm as Tate but he’s no slouch. He has as good or better breaking ball (a devastating mid-80s slide piece). He’s shown a good changeup. He’s been extended. He’s as athletic. And he’s lefthanded.” John Manuel, Baseball America

“Jay has started one game in his college career, but has serious helium and should go right around here. He’s smallish (6’1/185), has some effort to his delivery and has no experience starting, but he’ll flash three 60-or-better pitches that dart all over the place and has been dealing this spring. When the draft class gives you lemons, you draft lefties with electric arms.” Kiley McDaniel, FanGraphs

Scouting Grades:

Note: These grades are  summations based on an aggregation of all readily available scouting information from sources such as Baseball America, MLB.com, Fangraphs and professional scouting contacts

(Present/Future, 20-80 scale):

Fastball: 65/70
Curve: 50/55
Slider: 45/60
Change: 45/55
Control: 45/55
Overall: 50/60

Prospect Overview and Future Outlook:
The White Sox have been connected to Tyler Jay for as long as any other team. Jay, the top prospect of the Big Ten for over a year now, was only expected to go in the second round by the most optimistic evaluators at this time last year. As the 2015 season has progressed, Jay’s stock has made a significant jump to get to where he is now. He now finds himself cemented in the top half of the first round with some sources, namely John Manuel of Baseball America, having Jay getting plucked No. 1 overall by the Diamondbacks.

A lot of Jay’s intrigue as a prospect comes from the fact that he’s a reliever for the Illini. It’s not very often that one of the absolute best arms in Division 1 baseball pitches out of the bullpen and it’s really become against convention to draft a reliever in the first round. Some of the industry wasn’t particularly happy with U of I’s head coach Dan Hartleb choosing to pitch his best pitcher out the pen and has some insinuating Hartleb’s decision could potentially cost the left-hander hundreds of thousands of dollars if not millions. Despite that concern, Jay’s performance has been so strong that he is likely to have more helium than any one prospect in the draft.

Even with his performance level in the elite ranks of NCAA-D1, this lefty still begs the question: “Can he hold up as a starter?” More often than not, scouts have answered that question with a yes. As far as repertoire, there should be no doubt that Jay has what it takes to start. Jay throws four pitches, listed in terms of frequency he features: fastball, curveball, slider and changeup.

Jay’s best pitch is his fastball which has topped at 98 mph and sits 93-95 mph. The lively heater runs to his glove side or in on the hands of a right-handed batter. Jay’s curveball, which may end up being his fourth pitch, has been featured more so than his slider-change because Jay has been able to get it over as a strike so consistently. The lefty’s slider usage has varied from outing-to-outing and has flashed plus and should ultimately be the pitch he matches with his fastball as his bread and butter at the next level. Pitching dominantly as a closer, Jay hasn’t been able to feature all of his pitches every time a scout sees him so his changeup has been put on the back burner due to pitching out of relief. Notwithstanding, Jay has gotten mixed reviews but also a few rave reviews on the pitch. Considering this filthy offering courtesy of Carson Cistulli at FanGraphs, you can see why some eyes are bullish on the pitch’s potential despite the lack of usage.

So while Jay holds a repertoire that could get him through a lineup two or three times, I have been very surprised by the media and industry lack of concern for Jay’s body type and stature. Tyler has been listed at any weight in increment of five in the range of 165-185 pounds. It should be inferred that his weight is a lot closer to the former in that range set. Jay’s jersey cloaks him very similarly to the way Chris Sale’s does with the difference being a half a foot of height. Jay has been listed at 6’ or 6’ 1”, which isn’t ideal for a starter but hasn’t thwarted all pitchers of that body type. The shorter frame does give Jay a good hand towards repeating his smooth delivery as he has consistently out of the pen in short stints.

Jay makes up for his lack of size with an electric arm. Kiley McDaniel referred to Jay’s arm as electric but he is far from the only scout using that word. The 21-year-old’s arm action is very special and it’s likely the principal reason why he can reach 98 MPH regularly at his build. Other than that, Jay is a very athletic player. The US Collegiate National team’s coaching staff was very impressed with his athleticism and according to Clint Longenecker of Baseball America, Jay ran a 6.6 second 60-yard dash. I have also seen him cover plenty of ground when he played centerfield for Lemont High School in South Suburban Chicago.

Draft Day:

Jay has been projected to go anywhere from 1st to 15th overall. John Manuel’s recent mock draft had the Diamondbacks selecting Jay at No. 1 and, at least in the media, that mock has added to Jay’s helium. I think it’s important to understand the impressive glut of information coming out of the Diamondbacks’ camp. Diamondbacks’ GM Dave Stewart has personally seen an uncountable number of potential first round draft picks. Given a weak draft and no true consensus No. 1 player, the Diamondbacks are likely keeping all options open. I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, but there’s plenty of smoke from all corners in Arizona. If you are a White Sox fan hoping for Tyler Jay, a very real hurdle seems to be Colorado at No. 3. Whoever selects the Illini product should get considerable amount of upside, with some risk, in a weak draft class.

The White Sox are picking 8th overall and according to an industry source, Tyler Jay is the guy they covet at No. 8. To the contrary, Keith Law seems sure Carson Fulmer won’t get past if he were to be available to the Sox. Of course every year at draft time there is plenty of information, of varying degrees of utility, being thrown out there. Information particularly related to the White Sox has always been scarce and rarely prophetic. Regardless, two folks in the industry are confident the White Sox are enamored with two different college arms. Given how candid White Sox GM Rick Hahn and White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting Doug Laumann have been in regards to the team’s organizational philosophy on drafting college pitching, there is credence to the idea of the White Sox selecting either Jay or Fulmer on June 8th if given the chance.

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Filed under: Draft Coverage

Tags: Tyler Jay

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